My wife and I see eye to eye on many things. For instance, we agree on how to raise our kids, how to spend money, and that I should always be in charge of the TV remote.
If there’s one thing we can never seem to agree on, it’s when to throw away food. My wife, who obviously comes from the “if it smells okay, looks okay, and tastes okay, it is okay” school of tossing out food, hates to part with anything.
Being a member of the “it only has to be near the use by, best by, better before, or sell by date and I become extremely nervous” school, I have no problem tossing out anything that appears suspect.
Last week, we had a rumble over microwave popcorn. When I found 6 3-pack boxes of Orville Redenbacher popcorn with the best by date of March, I did what any sensible person would do – I placed them beside the kitchen trashcan.
When my wife saw the boxes of popcorn, she nearly lost her mind. “What are you doing?” she asked as she waved the unopened boxes of popcorn in my face.
“They expired way back in March,” I said.
“Did the popcorn taste funny?”
“I didn’t try it,” I said.
“Then why are you throwing away $20 worth of popcorn?”
“Is saving $20 more important than my health?” I asked.
There was a moment of silence, and then my wife asked, “Is that a trick question?”
“Have you noticed that you always want to keep things you don’t eat?”
“Vince, you’ve been eating it for months and it hasn’t harmed you. Can you put the popcorn back in the pantry?”
When I refused her request, my wife became irate. “If you don’t believe me that the popcorn is okay, then call the company and see what they have to say about it,” she shouted.
“If it makes you happy, I’ll call them,” I said.
I called Orville Redenbacher thinking there was no way in the world a company would urge a customer to eat its product 5 months past the date on the package. But as it turns out, I got the customer service rep who was absent on the day the company went over how to avoid lawsuits.
When I asked the customer service rep if the popcorn was safe to eat, he let out a long sigh. Okay, I admit it took me about 5 minutes to get to the point, but I just wanted him to know I didn’t take food poisoning lightly.
Anyway, after his sigh, it seemed like he was shaking his head in disgust at my concern. “Well, is it safe to eat?” I asked again.
“Hey, it’s just popcorn and oil. It should be fine, pal,” he said.
“Are you sure it’s okay? I have three kids who will be eating this popcorn,” I said.
“The popcorn is best if eaten before the date on the box, but, as I stated earlier, it’s just popcorn and oil, dude,” he said.
After I finished talking with my pal, my wife asked, “Well, what did he say?”
“He said the popcorn should be okay for now,” I said.
After hearing this, my wife started acting like she was a guest on some talk show. She threw her arms in the air and started sashaying around the kitchen. “What did I tell you? What did I tell you, Vince? I told you it was good!”
My wife picked up the boxes of popcorn and put them back into the pantry. For normal couples, this would have been the end of the popcorn debate. A dutiful husband would have trusted both his wife and the angry customer service rep and eaten popcorn until the day it turned bad and sent him to the ER with food poisoning. But because I’m very stubborn and refuse to go down without a fight, I had no choice but to stand my ground.
I took the popcorn out of the pantry and slammed it on the kitchen table. Okay, I placed it on the kitchen table, but it sounds much more macho to say I slammed it on the table. “Look, I understand that you and angry customer service rep think the popcorn is good until it starts to smell or taste funny, but I don’t want to eat the popcorn.”
“Vince, give me one good reason!” she demanded.
“Did you have a good reason to throw out those eggs?”
“That was what - 34 pennies worth of eggs? This is 20 dollars, Vince.”
“It’s not the amount of money, it’s the principle of it all,” I said, hoping she would be persuaded. She wasn’t.
She jumped on our office computer and searched the web for more evidence I was wrong. And what do you know? The so-called experts agree that food normally lasts past the date on the package if it has been “stored properly.”
After bombarding me with information from about 99 websites, my wife placed the popcorn back in the pantry and dared me to touch it. She doesn’t have anything to worry about.
Not until the day I call Orville Redenbacher and ask if it is okay to eat popcorn 3 years past its best by date.